The United States had a record $375 billion trade deficit with China in 2017, which made up two thirds of a global $566 billion U.S. trade gap past year, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
A source said told Reuters the tariffs were associated with an investigation into intellectual property theft, which is a big issue with China.
The news website Politico earlier reported that the US Trade Representative's office had presented Trump with a package of $30 billion in tariffs last week, but Trump told aides that this was not high enough.
The White House did not make a comment on the timing or size of the possible tariffs.
The US text, released to the media by a Geneva-based trade official, comes as the 164-member WTO faces challenges unprecedented in its 23-year history.More news: Cedar Realty Trust Inc (CDR) Holdings Cut by Cornercap Investment Counsel Inc
Trump has targeted the high technology companies in China to punish the country for its investment policies which have effectively forced companies from the U.S.to give up technology secrets in order to be given approval to operate there.
Higher tariffs for those products would be hurtful to American families, said one trade lobbyist.
And, he added, instead of threatening a trade war, Trump should restart the trans-Atlantic free trade negotiations between the USA and the European Union which began under former president Barack Obama but were never finished.
The US trade deficit with China ran to a record $375 billion previous year but US exports to the country were also at a record.
China has a trade surplus of more than $375 billion with the US and when the lead economic adviser for President Xi Jinping recently visited Washington, the administration pushed him to give them a way China could reduce that number.More news: PM Trudeau visiting Hamilton, Ont. to show support for steel workers
A second person, who is an industry lobbyist in Washington who is familiar with the administration's thinking said the process was being led by Peter Navarro, an avowed protectionist, who has accused American companies of conniving with the Chinese state, and by Commerce Secretary Robert Lighthizer, who also favors tariffs as a tool.
Trump was elected on a protectionist agenda, and in the a year ago he has pulled the U.S. out of the 14-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and started talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico.
The tariffs announced by the Trump administration last week on steel and aluminum are viewed as relatively insignificant in terms of imports and exports.
The Trump administration is pressing China to cut its trade surplus with the United States by $100 billion, a White House spokeswoman said on Wednesday, clarifying a tweet last week from President Donald Trump.More news: Swiss National Bank Reduces Position in American Airlines Group Inc (AAL)